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December 10, 2016
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Laying blame in the wrong place

But let’s face facts. It’s not clear that even the amount of water available in the white paper would maintain the coldwater fishery as far south as Callicoon in summers as hot as last year’s. And according to climate-change theory, while there will be occasional cooler summers ahead, the trend will be for increasing heat.

All of this is not to say that we have to give up or do nothing. But we need to stop scapegoating the FFMP, which is a system for optimizing the deployment of a given quantity of water, not the thing that determines what that quantity is. Knowing that blame should be laid, instead, on the combination of a changing climate and an inadequate annual water allocation is the first step toward deciding the most sensible way to proceed.

More water needs to be made available for minimum conservation releases, and we think that conditions in the Upper Delaware last summer and the expectation of hotter summers ahead are points that should be used at the DRBC bargaining table to try and secure it. If that fails, we also think that a legal challenge requesting the Supreme Court to review the current water allocation system, which lets New York City hoard portions of the 800 mgd limit originally granted it, even though it is only using about 550 mgd, is worth exploring. But to refuse to renew the FFMP and “go back to the decree” makes no sense at all.

Finally, we need to face the possibility that a shrinkage in the coldwater fishery may be an inevitable concomitant of global warming. It’s possible, in fact, that even if every drop of water not being actually consumed by NYC were available for river releases, the coldwater fishery might, at some point, have to retreat up the main stem. Climate change is real; it’s here to stay, and it’s going to show up with increasing frequency in our own backyard. Sadly, our coldwater fishery may just be our canary in the coalmine.